Saturday, December 31, 2016

The ferocity of hope

By Pete Souza
via Wikimedia Commons
Eight years ago Americans and Canadians celebrated the audacity of hope in the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States. This year, a film called Arrival introduced me to the ferocity of hope: its tenaciousness, its endurance. If optimism is defined as the hope of getting dealt a good hand, hope is the willingness to play the hand, however lousy it seems to be, or is.

I needed to see Arrival. I think many other people needed to see it as well. The grim events of the year past crystallized the reality of hope and dreams deferred for millions of people, of the price so many of us pay for a system that, more and more, directs wealth upwards. Workers spend their lives in menial tasks for poverty wages with no real prospect of improvement, and nothing in their futures but further marginalization thanks to the steady advance of automation. Students take on debts to make their way through school, only to find no jobs with good enough salaries to repay their loans. As we build a dazzling new world of ever more impressive and intuitive technology, and ever more open acceptance of humanity in all our wonder and diversity, the people we leave behind will not merely call to us: they will vote. They will refuse to let us ignore them in a climb toward an ideal society for a few.

Trump by Gage Skidmore
By Gage Skidmore ,via Wikimedia Commons
And so the celebrations go on hold while we struggle to ward of despair, while looking for ways to build a new society, one which includes and accepts everyone.

The coming year will see the inauguration of Donald Trump as the American president. However few artists agree to celebrate his installation, he and the Republican congress will have the power to make laws for the next two years. It will probably prove a grim and anxious time for anyone concerned with decent treatment of the poor and powerless. Judging from Mr. Trump's appointments, we can expect to see efforts to expand and empower the carceral state; given the priorities of the current leadership in the American legislature, we can expect to see the meager American social safety net shredded even further.

Nor will this concern only Americans. If Mr. Trump opens negotiations over NAFTA, Canadians can expect pressure to "privatise" our own medical system, some from Americans who want to invest in a Canadian health care system converted to seek profits, some from reactionaries who want no inconvenient cross-border comparisons, some from ideologues convinced that by ending our socialized medical system they are somehow doing us a favour. If Mr. Trump builds a wall on the southern border of the United States, or opens a registry for Muslims, authoritarians in other countries will feel empowered and inspired to do similar things.
Speaker Paul Ryan watches his swearing in on CSPAN
By Office of Speaker Ryan,
 via Wikimedia Commons

We will need to feel the ferocity of hope, the tenacity of our conviction: no amount of success, political, military or economic, will make wrong right. No prosperity is worth the dignity of the human person. No triumph of popularity can make the indecent decent. Whatever the cost, no matter the difficulty, the struggle for a world of equity where everyone can expect to be treated with decency and dignity, the struggle will be worth it.

No comments: